IGNITE September 2019
A native takes a second look at her hometown
Going to college here in Rockford, Iencountered a large group of people from other states such as California, Florida, Arizona, etc. When I had heard where they were from, I always questioned “Why Rockford?” which was usually accompanied with my confused look.
Before starting my position at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, I could not understand why a young individual would leave those states to come to Rockford. It didn’t add up in my mind. What made Rockford so great that they wanted to come here?
More Than Meets the Eye
I was always told that downtown Rockford was a place I should avoid. I never questioned why, and with that mindset of “downtown is bad,” I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t think I was missing out on anything.
Boy was I wrong! Downtown is full of local shops and restaurants perfect for the millennials in our community. I never knew the possibilities that existed because I always saw it as the “bad and unsafe” place, and I hadn’t even given downtown a chance.
My fiancé and I are finding new favorite spots every time we visit downtown. We cannot wait to try places like Capri, or shop at Rockford Art Deli. If I had looked past what I was always told and actually saw downtown for what it truly has to offer, I think I might have understood why those college individuals moved to Rockford.
Why I Chose Rockford
I have had people ask me “Why Rockford?” before, and I usually would shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know. It’s the only place I have known” or “I honestly don’t know why I stay.” When I started at the Chamber, I was asked “Why Rockford?” I had to pause before I gave my answer because it wasn’t a question I had put much thought into, and I knew my usual answer was not how I really felt.
After some thought, I answered with: “I have family here, friends here, and it is my home.” However, I still felt as if there was more to my answer and more keeping me here.
Then it hit me. I really want to be a part of the change here in Rockford. I do not want to be one of those people who runs from the “struggle” and comes back when the “mess” is cleaned up and claim I have Rockford pride. I want to be on the team that helps clean up the “mess,” and I want to have true, genuine Rockford pride.
Falling in Love with my Hometown
I am a Rockford-bred girl. I have always had this pull at my heart strings to stay in Rockford. However, I never knew why. I finally realized the reason why I felt the need to stay: I had to fall in love with my hometown.
I went to elementary and middle school in Belvidere, and I went to high school and college in Rockford. Looking back, a lot of my memories of growing up are in Belvidere. Now I have this desire to create new ones in Rockford. I want to take walks by the river. I want to support the local businesses and volunteer my time to the community. I want to finally go to City Market and Dinner on the Dock. I want to enjoy all the events that Rockford has to offer. I want to love my hometown, so that when people ask me, “Why Rockford?” I feel confident in my answer and have valid reasons as to why I stayed. I want an answer that will make them want to see all the potential Rockford could offer to them.
Why Not Rockford?
After a long, hard look at Rockford and my mindset towards Rockford, I can see why so many young individuals, especially young professionals, choose to stay or move to Rockford. As a community, we are working together to make our city better.
It may not be instant results. For some that isn’t good enough, and they choose to leave Rockford. For others, they do not mind working with Rockford to get results, even if that means taking baby steps. These individuals are the ones you see opening their businesses in downtown, the ones you see participating in Rockford events, or volunteering their time to the community they love. So the next time someone asks you “Why Rockford?” tell them about Rockford and then ask them: “Why Not?”